If you’re a fan of superhero movies, and own a PlayStation 4, then you really need to play Insomniac’s Spider-Man. I wasn’t going to write about it here, but the feeling I had finishing it hearkens back to a write up I did on another video game ages ago on a previous iteration of this blog, so I think it’s worthwhile to discuss from the following entry point: this is the best Spider-Man story yet completed in any form of media except for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, and possibly even better than the recent Homecoming.
I won’t spoil the story, but it moves along at the right pace even in spite of the freedom afforded by an open world video game, it doesn’t belabor itself with adhering to a known continuity, or adapting the MCEU- it is at once very much its own adaptation of Spider-Man, and yet somehow very universal to whichever media you first got to know Peter Parker.
I say every time I enter one of these reviews that it’s never enough to just review the thing. In this case, my critical slice is going to be a bit more personal than usual. The other video game that was impactful enough for me to write about before this was Batman: Arkham City. That came out in 2011, so two games in 7 years is a bit of a span. Batman and Spider-Man are my two favorite comic book characters, and role models of sorts for different aspects of me. It’s no surprise that the Arkham series hit me so deeply, but with B:AC in particular it’s become a joke among my circle of friends that I’ve beaten it so many times that I’ve worn down the disc.
Part of the reason for that is the coincidental timing of B:AC, I had just gotten dumped and was reeling from it to the point that I couldn’t go into work or even leave my house for several days. There’s a scene in B:AC near the climax where the full scope of the plot is revealed. As helicopters rain missles on the city destroying it and killing people, Batman argues with Alfred that he needs to leave this destruction to others to fix because he needs to save his love, Talia Al Ghul. Alfred tells him bluntly that Batman must save Gotham.
It was a jarring moment for me. I’m no Batman, but I too was standing on the precipice looking at my world crumbling under my own depression, and was ignoring it for the sake of a woman who didn’t love me. I still get shivers just thinking about that moment. I don’t identify with the character of Batman- the rich, perfect billionaire who can always think of way out of every situation. I identify more with Spider-Man- the awkward geek who struggles financially and just wants to help people.
I didn’t have a precipice moment with Spider-Man, but maybe I didn’t need to. I still got the feeling of “here is a hero, and game through which I can full express all the best things of myself.” That’s what heroes are after all: paragons of virtue, those impossible beacons we all strive and want to be. Whether that’s helping save the people of New York from muggings, Gotham from the Joker, or just strolling down 5th Avenue giving people high fives and finger guns (yes, you can do this is the new Spider-Man game), Spider-Man accomplishes this affinity with me. I’m sure it accomplishes that with everyone because that is what has made the character so popular for the length of his run:
Peter Parker has personal challenges, struggles, and problems we all know too well, but he never relents in doing what he knows is right to a degree we all want to believe we are ourselves capable.